The Investigative Reporting Workshop, based at the School of Communication at American University, was founded in 2008 by longtime investigative journalist Charles Lewis, who continues to report and write for the site and national publications. Lewis previously founded the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, following a career with CBS at “60 Minutes” and at ABC News.
IRW is an editorially independent, nonprofit newsroom. Staff and freelancers contribute to the site, and editors also pair graduate and undergraduate students with professional reporters and editors to produce stories — all with a focus on government and corporate accountability. Recent reporting and co-publishing partners include The Washington Post, The Fresno Bee, The Tampa Bay Times, Public Health Watch, WAMU in Washington and WWNO in New Orleans. IRW interns and fellows worked as researchers and reporters from 2009-2021 on 15 co-productions with PBS FRONTLINE.
Other media outlets also have co-reported or co-published Workshop stories over the years, including inewsource and KPBS in San Diego, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting,The New Yorker and the Columbia Journalism Review.
Two of our 2020 projects, investigations into water quality — and racial, economic and political factors contributing to lack of clean water — were co-reported by The Weather Channel and co-published by The Fresno Bee and the Tampa Bay Times. We reported a five-part series, Toxic Zones, on the hazards of living near oil refineries nationwide in collaboration with NBC News and E&E News that year as well.
IRW’s recent 2021 investigations include: Deaths of immigrants recently released by ICE, an examination of a Texas plant still emitting as much lung-damaging sulfur dioxide as it did before the Clean Air Act was passed 51 years ago, and a comprehensive look at how the Federal Election Commission has changed.
Since we began publishing in the spring of 2009, IRW has produced hundreds of stories, won a dozen national awards and trained 240 students.
Our statement on ethics and transparency is here.
Our statement on diversity and inclusion is here.
You’ll find more on our educational and professional outreach here.
You can read more about us and the history of muckraking in this story in American magazine in July 2019.
Who we are
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley J. Lowery joined American University and the Investigative Reporting Workshop in the summer of 2023 to serve as executive editor of IRW and professor of journalism in AU’s School of Communication.
Lowery is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading reporters covering issues of law enforcement, race and justice. He is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, podcast host, on-air correspondent and professor. His writing and reporting also has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, The Atlantic, GQ Magazine, Ebony, Fast Company, Men’s Health, and The Wall Street Journal.
He spent seven years as a national correspondent for The Washington Post. In 2015, Lowery pitched and helped lead the Fatal Force project, an unprecedented real-time database to track annual fatal shootings by American police officers. The database, which remains the most reliable public data on police shootings, won the Pulitzer Prize, a Peabody Award and George Polk Award and was named one of the decade’s top 10 works of journalism. His 2018 project Murder With Impunity, with the Post’s Kimbriell Kelly, Ted Mellnik and Steven Rich, an unprecedented look into police failure to solve homicides, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Student journalists from the Investigative Reporting Workshop and its Washington Post practicum contributed to gathering and reporting on the data that underpins each of these major investigations.
Lowery’s first book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, a New York Times bestseller, won the 2017 Christopher Isherwood prize for autobiographical prose from the LA Times Book Prizes. Lowery is undertaking a tour for his new book, American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress, which was published in June.
Charles Lewis is a former producer for CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” and ABC News. He founded the Center for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists as well as several other nonprofit news groups before creating IRW. Among his many honors, Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation awarded him the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence. He is the author or co-author of six books. He retired from the university as a faculty member in December of 2022 and became emeritus executive editor of IRW.
Wendell Cochran, a former journalism division director in the School of Communication and a longtime business reporter, co-founded IRW with Lewis. Cochran is retired. He launched BankTracker, a project IRW published in early 2009 to track the financial health of banks and credit unions, and which IRW staff continue to update.
Lynne Perri is IRW’s managing editor and a journalist-in-residence in the School of Communication, where she teaches reporting, journalism ethics, a history of American investigative reporting and visual journalism. She is a former deputy managing editor for graphics and photography at USA TODAY, and a former reporter and editor at The Tampa Tribune and Tallahassee Democrat.
The Post partnership is under the guidance of IRW Senior Editor John Sullivan, who is also on the Washington Post’s investigative staff both as a reporter and as an associate editor. Sullivan teaches a graduate practicum inside the Post.
The PBS FRONTLINE partnership with IRW from 2009 to 2021 was led by longtime PBS writer-producer Rick Young, and his production team, including co-producers Emma Schwartz and Fritz Kramer. Young left FRONTLINE after almost 30 years in May 2021. Schwartz and Kramer are working on new films.
Detailed staff biographies can be found on the Our Staff page.
And learn more about our publishing partners here.
The Investigative Reporting Workshop has an Advisory Board that offers programmatic support and guidance to the Workshop but does not serve as a formal governing body because of the Workshop’s status as a special project of American University. This Advisory Board represents investigative journalism around the globe and includes:
- Yevgenia Albats, chief editor, The New Times, Moscow
- Rosental Calmon Alves, founding director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas; Knight Chair in International Journalism, the University of Texas at Austin
- Walt Bogdanich, investigative editor, The New York Times
- Yuen-Ying Chan, media consultant and educator; founding director, Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong
- Sunday Dare, publisher, News Digest Magazine; editor-in-chief, Newsbreaksnow
- Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism, Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication; former Washington Post executive editor
- Gwen Lister, chair, Namibia Media Trust, and founder, The Namibian
- Deborah Nelson, Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism, University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism
- Leonarda Reyes, founder and director, Center for Journalism and Public Ethics in Mexico
- James Risser, retired reporter, Des Moines Register; former director, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program and an emeritus professor at Stanford University
- Mark J. Rochester, managing editor, iNewsource
- James B. Steele, investigative reporter, formerly of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Time and Vanity Fair
The Workshop began publishing in the spring of 2009. It is modeled on the Children’s Television Workshop, which originally was created to produce “Sesame Street,” but became an incubator and innovator for much of educational television — as IRW has helped to incubate and encourage the growth of other news nonprofits.
Chuck Lewis, who founded the Center for Public Integrity, also helped to create several news nonprofits since founding IRW, which has hosted journalists-in-residents from other countries who have gone on to form nonprofit news organizations in Japan and Australia.
IRW operates under the 501(c)(3) designation of American University. The interimdean of the AU School of Communication is Leena Jayaswal.
Illustration by Sam Ward for IRW